ďAre You Prepared?Ē
1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
July 21, 2002
††††††††††† Are you prepared?† You do realize donít you that something is going to happen sooner than later.† Are you prepared for what is coming?† Are you prepared for the coming day of the Lord?†
After 2000 years of waiting, it sounds funny to be asked whether or not we are prepared for this day.† I wonder if it is even something we think about it?† I wonder if it is even something we honestly care about?† Oh, we may talk about it in our Christian circles, we may even pray for it, and we may even hope it comes soon, but I confess to you that it is not something that is always at the forefront of my mind.† After all, it hasnít happened yet, and I think I am pretty safe in saying that it wonít happen in my lifetime.† The anticipation and waiting for that day just doesnít have the same intensity as it once did for the early Christians.†
When we read a text like this, we forget about just how much the coming day of the Lord was on the minds and hearts of the early Christians.† We should remind ourselves that this letter of Paul is the earliest written book of the Bible, even earlier than the Gospels, a mere 20 years after Christís death and resurrection.† For the Christians living in this time, they fully believed that Christís return was imminent, it was just around the corner, ready to happen at any time.†
††††††††† So, were the early Christians just mistaken about the times and season of Christís return?† Were they just naÔve in believing that it would happen so soon?† Or, is it us who are mistaken?† Is it us who are naÔve?† Maybe it is us who have let the last 2000 years give us a false sense of security in thinking that we do not have to be concerned about the day of the Lord?† Maybe it is us who have let the last 2000 years distract us from preparing ourselves for that coming day?† Maybe it is us who have let the last 2000 years dull or sense of urgency and intensity, our hope and wonder of what that day will bring.
††††††††† My friends, if we believe that Scripture still speaks to us today as it did to people back then, and if we believe that Scripture is still relevant for our lives, just as much now, as it was to the people back then, then we must not dismiss nor ignore the fact that the day of the Lord is coming.† We must not dismiss nor ignore the fact that at any moment Christ will return.
††††††††† But, I cannot tell you when it is going to happenÖno one can.† You canít figure it out with any mathematical equations.† You canít figure it out by putting signs together.† You canít even figure it out by reading the Bible.† The time and season of Christís return is beyond human knowing, beyond our comprehension of time and space, but Paul was certain about one thing.† It will come, and when it does, it will come like a thief in the night, and all of us who believe we have already achieved peace and security, will experience nothing but destruction, turmoil, and chaos.†
As I thought about this text this week, I began wondering if there was really anything that a person could do to prepare for the day of Christís return.† I mean, how can anyone prepare for a thief in the night, for that which comes silently upon us, for that which lurks in the shadows?†
The imagery of a thief in the night brings to my mind all the things that make me look over my shoulder when I walk down a dark hall.† It brings to my mind all the times I have been startled awake upon hearing the house creak in the middle of the night.† It brings to my mind all the things that race around in my head as I lie in bed listening to the noises of the night trying to figure out what they are.
No amount of preparation can prepare you for what you cannot see, for what you cannot anticipate, and for what you cannot control.† It is a stark reminder that no one will be able to hide from that day.† No one will be able to escape from what that day will bring.† Who among us does not fear the Lord?
††††††††† But if our story ends here, then all we are left with is bad news, all we are left with is fear and not hope, anxiety and not peace, destruction and not rebirth.† But our story does not end here, for the Bible is not bad news, but good news, in fact Paul tells us great and wonderful good news about the day of the Lord and about who we are.†
You see, being prepared for the coming of the Lord doesnít have to do with what we must do, or even not do, in order to get ready for the coming day, it doesnít have to do with our works of preparedness but with our identity.† Paul reminds all of us, that we are not of the darkness, we are not of the night, for we belong to God.† We are the children of light.† Godís grace, love, and mercy has illuminated our very bodies and souls, it has illuminated our very hearts and minds to the truth about who God is and what God has done for us.†
As Godís own, we are not left to our own devices, we are not left to decide who among us is will be in and who will be out, we are not left to live our lives in a feeble attempt to make ourselves right in Godís eyes before the day of the Lord comes.† It is God who declares to us all, as a community of faith, that the powers of the night and darkness have no control over us, they are powerless in changing who we are, for we are the beloved of God.†
What Paul is saying to the Thessalonians and to us, is that we do not need to know when Christ will return, let us leave that up to God.† Nor do we even need to know how he will return.† Let us leave that up to the fiction writers and movie producers.† All we need to know is that it is Christ who is returning, and the great truth of our text is that through Christ, we have been destined, yes thatís right, destined, not for wrath but for obtaining salvation.† The one who is coming is not a mystery to us, he is not the enemy, he is for us and not against us.†
Let us never forget that it is not us who move toward Christ, but rather it is Christ who is moving toward us.† The kingdom of God is not a static, far off distant event in the future, but rather it is a progressing, moving, and transforming reality that is breaking into the here and now.† Therefore, we cannot let ourselves fall into the trap of sitting idly by waiting for the time to come.†
The Thessalonians were so convinced that the day of the Lord was coming soon that they forgot what it meant to be the children of light, they forgot what I meant to be a witnessing community who belongs to God.† The coming arrival of the day of the Lord is a call to all of us who are the children of light to begin living as children of light.†
Paulís words are a reminder to all of us, that if we want to be prepared for the coming of the Lord, then we must begin living in the assurance and hope that we have already been prepared for that day, for God has already given to us what we need for the in-between times.† God has already fitted us with the armor of His protection, the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of hope of salvation.†††
Let us, with all vigilance and alertness, follow Paulís command to keep awake and be sober.† Like a sentry, our eyes, ears, hearts and minds must be paying attention at all times to what is going on around us, to Godís work in the world.† Like the guards at Buckingham palace or the Marineís who stand guard around our nationís capital, so we too must be alert and awake.† Ready to act in a moments notice, ready to go into action for the service of others, ready to be called upon when needed, ready to be witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the hope that we have.
††††††††† Brothers and sisters, you are the beloved of God, you are the children of light.† Stand firm in the fact that you have been prepared for the coming of the Lord, but do not let this glorious reality cloud your judgment about who is in control.† It is God who is in charge of our times and seasons.† It is God who is the subject of our text and not us.†
As children of light, let us be mindful of those who face a difficult road ahead and uncertain future, but let us not allow our own preparedness be a license for us to decide for ourselves who among us is of the darkness or of the light.† Those decisions are left up to God.†
Let us instead, heed Paulís words to do all we can to encourage each other and build each other up.† Through prayer, teaching, exhortation, praise, communion, and fellowship we remind ourselves and give to others a certain hope and a sense of belonging that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves, something much more peaceful and secure than what anything the world can possibly give us.†
And just for a moment imagine how this church, this community, and even this world might be changed by our continual encouragement and building up of each other in the body of Christ.†
Now are you prepared for that?† Amen.†††††††† †††††††† †††††††